The four different ways we connect to each other and how it impacts our relationships
We all attach to the people we love differently. It can be a major strain on a relationship if attachment styles are different and go unnoticed. Some people are avoidant, they detach. While others are anxious, they are perceived as clingy. Anxious-Avoidants exude qualities of both. Lastly, there’s also secure which is considered healthy.
But for healthy relationships, healthy communication is ideal, which involves first understanding your own attachment style, as well as your partners.
Here’s an example of a couple with different styles:
Sarah and Alex have been together for 5 years, but express it in different ways. Sarah loves Alex in a call-him-thirty-seven-times-a-day sort of way. She wants to be in constant communication. While Alex is more independent and values privacy. The differing ways of approaching love and affection in relationships as individuals, or Attachment Theory, shows us the way we interact with love and affection.
While it’s great to look at in relationships, Attachment Theory is from the world of developmental psychology. According to Attachment Theory, the groundwork for how we interact with love and affection later in life is determined by the treatment we receive as infants and young children. There is expansive research in this area, and we love how Attachment Theory relates to committed relationships. We want to understand Attachment Theory and how it can work to empower you to love your partner more intentionally.
Here’s the deal.
How an infant’s needs are met has a huge impact on their “attachment type,” made up of four varying types, according to Mark Manson [MLC1] .
First up, Secure.
These are the people who were cared for well as infants: their needs are consistently and satisfactorily met by their parents or primary caregiver. This results in an individual who is confident showing affection and being intimate but is also comfortable being alone and independent. They are capable of handling rejection, despite the pain, and are capable of sacrificing and being loyal to their partner when necessary. At first glance, it seems apparent that these people make the best romantic partners, friends, family, etc., and it’s true. They are both trusting and trustworthy and are adept at correctly balancing the priority of their relationships with the rest of their lives.
The second type is Anxious.
Anxious types tend to be more nervous in relationships. For example, this is the girl that calls her boyfriend dozens of times because he didn’t respond to her text. This is the guy who keeps unusually close tabs on his girlfriend to make sure she isn’t flirting with any other guys while he’s not around. People with this attachment type typically develop from infants whose needs have been met inconsistently and with unpredictable sufficiency. As adults, they typically find themselves in unhealthy relationships. They constantly need the reassurance of their partner’s affections and love, and they do not like being alone and/or single.
Thirdly, there are Avoidant types.
They are the opposite of the anxious type: fiercely independent, fearful of commitment, and always prepared with a way out. They often complain about feeling suffocated or confined whenever someone tries to get close to them. They struggle to stay in a committed relationship. This kind of behavior is developed by infants who have some of their needs met, while others are neglected altogether.
The fourth and final type Manson describes is the Anxious-Avoidant type.
As the name suggests, this type is a combination of the anxious and avoidant types. Anxious-Avoidant types are distrustful of others and are fearful of commitment and intimacy. They tend to lash out emotionally at others who attempt to connect with them. Adults who find themselves in this situation were in abusive or neglectful relationships as infants. This means they usually find themselves in similarly abusive or dysfunctional relationships during adulthood.
Researchers John Bowlby and James Robertson conclude that the involvement of a primary caregiver in the infant’s early life (0-18 months) had a significant impact on, and almost sole responsibility for, how the infant was able to relate to others later in life. There are stages within those first 18 months where attachments are forged and nurtured, making it increasingly more complicated.
So what do you do about your Attachment Type? First, you have to identify it. Ask yourself these questions: how do you feel about intimacy with another person? How would you handle rejection? Of course, these questions are very basic and certainly not comprehensive, but they provide a quick peek at what Attachment type you may be.
Of course, if you’re not satisfied with what you find, fear not, Attachment Types are not set in stone. You can change your Attachment Type over time, and it’s quite simple. A couple of psychologists, Bartholomew and Horowitz, constructed a model visually representing Attachment Type as a cross between self-esteem and sociability. For example, Anxious types have a negative self-image, but a positive sociability, which corresponds with what we already know: they crave attention, but are not necessarily in self-confidence as a result. How does this help? The first step to adjusting your Attachment Type is improving your self-esteem. Working on becoming more self-confident, therefore, will help you toward a positive view of self and others.
It has been said that you must “love your neighbor as yourself,” and the same applies here. If you have a positive self-image, you’re probably more likely to have the same image of others.
Understanding your Attachment Type and your partners can help you better relate to one another and better understand how to love them in a way they understand and accept. Take the first step and get to know yourself, so you can better know your partner and love them.